On Tuesday 3 January 1798 my husband Greg’s 4th great grandparents John Gilbart, 38 years old, and Elizabeth Huthnance considerably younger at 23, were married by licence at Gwinear, near Hayle in south-west Cornwall. Elizabeth was from Gwinear; John was from the village of St Erth, a few miles southwest. Neither had been married previously . Both were able to sign their name. The witnesses to the union were Henry Huthnance, who was probably Elizabeth’s brother, and a man called William Ninnis. The vicar was Malachy Hitchins, a notable amateur astonomer.

“England Marriages, 1538–1973 “, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NJ9Z-FMN : 13 March 2020), John Gilbart, 1798. Image of register at https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G924-P23Z?i=61

John was an employee of the Cornish Copper Company (CCC), who had been promoted from a position in the firm at Copperhouse near Hayle to manage the Rolling Mills at St Erth. The St Erth battery mill, constructed in 1782, used water-powered machinery to roll copper into sheets, much of it used to sheath the hulls of naval vessels.

For most of the nineteenth century the Gilbarts were prominent St Erth Methodists. John Gilbart was a member of the first Copperhouse Methodist Society and the founder, in 1783, of the St Erth Methodist Class. At the time of John and Elizabeth’s marriage, English law recognised only marriages conducted under the auspices of the Church of England, by Quakers, or under Jewish law. This is probably why the marriage was performed in the Church of England and not the Methodist Chapel. Methodism began as a reform sect within the Church of England.

John Gilbart is remembered in the St Erth Methodist Church

John Gilbart died in 1837. Four years later, Elizabeth Gilbart, 65, of ‘independent means’, was recorded in the 1841 census as living in Battery Mill, St Erth. In the same household were six, all unmarried, of her 13 children, and one grand-daughter who, perhaps, was there visiting her grandmother. The household also included a 15 year old female servant.

The house built by John Gilbart in St Erth where Elizabeth was living in 1841

Elizabeth Gilbart died on 1 July 1847. Her death was noted in the Royal Cornwall Gazette of 9 July 1847. A similar notice appeared in the West Briton newspaper of 16 July 1847:

At St. Erth, on Thursday, Elizabeth, the relict of Capt. John Gilbert, of St. Erth Battery Mills, aged 73 years.

(John’s title of captain is one that is used in the mini industry and has no military or naval significance.)

Elizabeth left a will, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 18 December 1847. Her bequests included annuities to be provided for various children, specific books, and furniture.

The grave of John and Elizabeth Gilbart in the churchyard at St Erth

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